Divorce Stress: How to Identify and Manage It

By: Marina Edelman, LMFT
Last Update: November 01, 2016

During the Olympics, one of the female gymnasts was asked how she handles pressure and stress. She said that she doesn’t view pressure to perform as a negative but has labeled it in her mind to be viewed as excitement. This is not a far stretch since stress can be good as well as bad. Without some stress, we would not get the adrenaline up to win races, solve problems, take exams, and make changes in the world.

Stress can be defined as mental, physical, or emotional disturbance, which alters homeostasis of the body and can be experienced both physically and psychologically. It is a form of pressure experienced by a person due to external impact from one’s job/school, death of a loved one, marriage, and so on. However, change has been described as the dominating cause of stress in most cases. Stress is also accompanied by a feeling of threat where the affected person assumes an endangered state of mind. Stress is an undesirable and unpleasant state usually manifested through actions, the way of thinking, and feelings.

Chronic stress cannot be ignored and must be dealt with to avoid decreased immune function, which lead to worsening of ill health and cause debilitating symptoms. The easiest way to deal with divorce stress initially is through action:

  • Avoid rushing
  • Exercise
  • Take deep breaths
  • Talk about it: putting an adjective to a feeling releases the negative energy stored in the body


Engage your mind to also help you in stress management by:

  • Positive mental imagery
  • Focusing on the task at hand rather than imagining the outcome
  • Avoid negative thoughts
  • Reflect on thoughts and actions that led to such a wonderful performance

Everyone experiences divorce stress differently, including children (especially teen boys and girls):

Signs of stress in teen girls:

  • Procrastinated in doing her homework
  • Overreacted to a situation with a friend
  • Frozen while taking a test
  • Loss of temper and being moody
  • Excessively tired
  • Occasionally uses aches or pains as an excuse to stay home from school
  • Takes out aggression on a younger sibling

Signs of stress in teen boys:

  • Arguing is normal; constant anger is not
  • Withdrawal from parents is normal; pulling away from family and friends is not
  • Anxiety is normal; feeling constantly overwhelmed is not
  • Being upset for days after a bad experience is normal; more than two weeks is not

Adults experience stress differently than teens. Stress is an individual experience and symptoms vary. The signs and symptoms listed below may be signs of disease, so you should not ignore them just because you believe they are stress-related. You must get more serious symptoms checked out by your doctor.

Physical signs and symptoms of stress:

  • Chest pain
  • Pounding heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Diminished or increased sex drive
  • Muscle aches, such as back and neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Clenched jaws and grinding teeth
  • Tight, dry, or a feeling of a lump in your throat
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Increased perspiration
  • Stomach cramps
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Skin problems

The psychological signs and symptoms of stress include:

  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Crying
  • Withdrawal or isolation
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Worry
  • Restless anxiety
  • Irritability, anger, decreased anger control
  • Overeating or anorexia
  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Decreased productivity
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Changes in close relationships
  • Increased smoking, increased use of alcohol and drugs.

Pay attention to your body and it will serve you well. If you are not able to cope with divorce stress on your own, please consult a mental health professional such as myself who can help you identify triggers and implement new coping strategies to minimize the effect of life roller coasters on your health and well-being.

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